How Are You Promoting Your Business – the Old Standby Methods or Utilizing New Technology?

dma-expected-change-in-media-use-by-medium

Expected Change in Media Use by Medium

As the economy continues to be a major factor affecting the ways in which small businesses promote themselves and go about the business of obtaining new customers, we at Strategic Growth Concepts have also found ourselves seeking new, higher impact, more cost-effective ways of promoting our business to prospective clients, as well as ways to help our clients promote their businesses. Our interactions with our clients and those in our many networks tell us that most small businesses are also interested in learning all they can to make the most of these new marketing and advertising tools.

Therefore, we thought we would conduct a brief study to determine the methods of marketing and advertising currently being used by small businesses, as well as to determine which methods are being explored. We will use this information to develop a series of articles and radio shows to help small businesses review and evaluate the marketing and advertising options available to them, and to assist in their determination of which methods will work best for their business. Click HERE to take survey.

We will share the survey results, as well as information about the various marketing methods, in upcoming articles and broadcasts. In the meantime, we would love to receive your comments in response to this article with your thoughts about the results various forms of marketing have produced for your firm.

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The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting and training firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. She is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years experience in providing Marketing, Operations, HR, and Strategic planning services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.

Detroit Regional Chamber Hosting Small Business Conference October 28th

The Detroit Regional Chamber will hold its annual small business conference Oct. 28, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at The Henry Ford in Dearborn. The day-long event, called Business InSight, will offer speed networking, panel discussions and a town hall meeting.

Mary Ellen Sheets, founder of Two Men and a Truck; Bob Fish, co-founder and CEO of Biggby Coffee; and Jeff Spilman, managing partner of S3 Entertainment Group L.L.C. will lead a session titled “Inside the CEO Mind.” Other speakers include: Marrianne O’Brien Markowitz, Midwest regional administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration; and Chris Holman, small business advocate for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. For more information about Business InSight 2009 click HERE.

SBA Launches New Online Training Course: Winning Federal Contracts – A Guide for Women Entrepreneurs

SBA logoWASHINGTON – Women who own small businesses will be able to use a new online U.S. Small Business Administration training course to learn how to identify and take advantage of federal contracting opportunities.  The new training course, Winning Federal Contracts: A Guide for Women Entrepreneurs, is part of an ongoing government-wide initiative to promote opportunities for women-owned businesses in the area of government contracting. 

This free online tutorial is a practical and easy to use guide that walks a woman-owned small business through the contracting process.  SBA is committed to ensuring that women-owned businesses receive at least 5 percent of federal contracts and believes better training opportunities are central to meeting this government-wide goal. 

Click HERE to learn more, and HERE to access the SBA training.

Customer Relationship Management in the Small Business Environment

CRM graphicAs we have become more and more technology-oriented in recent years, one of the trends I’ve noticed is that small business owners seem to assume that any task needing to be done to run their business requires a software package to facilitate it. Customer Relationship Management is no different. The multitude of CRM software packages available today, such as ACT, Outlook Contact Manager, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, FreeCRM, SalesBoom.com and many others, have encouraged this trend.  In fact, to further engage use of their systems, Salesforce.com and SugarCRM have made available FREE versions of their software for small businesses in the hope that they will eventually upgrade to a paid version of the program.

However, what frequently occurs is that small business owners assume that the programs are so complicated, or so work-intensive, that the already over-worked small business owners assume they don’t have the time or resources to utilize them; and then further assume that they can’t proceed with a CRM program since they don’t have time to manage it with the software program.  A recent article, ‘The Small Business Case for CRM’ for which I was interviewed by SmallBusinessComputing.com, further explores this trend.

In an effort to get the very important CRM process started for your firm, I would like to propose that small business owners go back to the basics as listed below:

  • A database of your customers, in Excel, that can be sorted and updated and includes a comments section.
  • Follow-up steps, including “Thanks for your time/business” letters or e-mails.
  • An inexpensive e-mail vendor such as ConstantContact, SwiftPages or any other similar online service that can cost as little as $15 per month to manage up to 500 contacts.
  • A solid communication schedule, with a customer feedback loop that captures and logs in the customer contact history.
  • Buy-in from every employee in your company to execute the strategy.

The list of basic tasks above comes from a recent Forbes.com article that discussed CRM from a similar standpoint (the complete article can be found on our website), the premise being that CRM programs don’t need to be complicated to implement to be effective. Nor do they need to be costly or time-consuming. Make a plan, have a basic database to track your efforts, some simple tools, and you’re on your way to increasing business from the most cost-effective and profitable customers you can have – the ones who already know you and have done business with you.

When you’re comfortable, go to the next step and start using a free version of Salesforce.com or SugarCRM or the Outlook Contact Manager that comes with the Small Business version of Microsoft Office 2007 to see if it adds value and effectiveness to your CRM efforts.  Then, when you want maximum value, move on to a paid version of one of the software programs with all the bells and whistles.  Try this multi-step CRM strategy and see if it doesn’t have positive impact on your business!

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The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts with over twenty years’ experience in working with small businesses. Linda can be contacted by email at strategicgrowthconcepts@earthlink.net. The company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com